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What We're Watching: Israel-Hamas escalation, Scotland's independence drive, Colombian strike continues

A camera operator falls as an Israeli police officer runs after him during clashes with Palestinians at the compound that houses Al-Aqsa Mosque, known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, May 10, 2021

Israel strikes Gaza after Hamas rockets: Things escalated very quickly on Monday in Jerusalem. For weeks, violent clashes between Israeli police and Palestinians over tensions surrounding access to the Old City and Al-Aqsa Mosque, as well as an anticipated verdict in the eviction of several Palestinian families from East Jerusalem's Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood, spread throughout the city. While Israeli police used heavy force to crack down on Palestinians throwing rocks and launching fireworks, the Hamas militant group in the Gaza Strip used the clashes as a pretext to launch a barrage of rockets into Israel. Hamas usually restricts its reach to southern Israel, but this time it launched dozens of rockets into Jerusalem, causing a mass evacuation of the Knesset, Israel's parliament. Israel responded swiftly Monday by bombing the Gaza Strip, resulting in at least 24 Palestinian deaths, including nine children. Since then, Hamas has fired at least 250 rockets into Israel, including several that landed on houses in southern Israel, while Israeli forces have struck 140 targets in the Gaza Strip. For now, both sides appear to be preparing for a massive escalation, raising fears of an outright war.

Scotland's drive for indyref2: The votes are counted from last week's UK elections, and the pro-independence Scottish National Party will again dominate Scotland's parliament. Though the party fell one seat shy of an absolute majority, the pro-independence Green Party will be happy to add its eight votes in support for a second independence referendum. For now, SNP leader and Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says COVID recovery is job one. But she also says a new independence vote is a matter of "when not if," setting up a showdown with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, whose approval is needed (via a majority vote in the UK Parliament) for a binding vote. Here's where the politics becomes fascinating. Today, polls suggest Scots are about evenly split on the independence issue. If Johnson tries to block them from voting, he might inadvertently increase support for breakaway. But agreeing to a vote as soon as next spring is a high-stakes roll of the dice. The question looks likely to end up in court.

"The strike continues" in Colombia: After a meeting with Colombian President Ivan Duque on Monday evening, the leaders of the protests that have rocked the country for nearly two weeks now had a simple message: "the national strike will continue." Earlier in the day, Duque made a last minute trip to Cali, Colombia's third largest city, which over the weekend was wracked by violence including a lethal flareup between indigenous protest groups and other armed civilians. While there Duque acknowledged the frustrations of Colombia's young people. Across the country, nearly two dozen people have been killed in clashes with the police since protests began over a botched tax reform last month, while strikes and roadblocks have begun to crimp food supplies in major cities. The tax bill was withdrawn, but protest leaders are now demanding broader concessions, including holding police accountable for abuses, reforms to the health and education systems, and more than 100 other specific demands including an array of measures to help Colombia's poor, protect the environment, and advance the country's stalled peace process (source in Spanish). Meetings between the federal government and various groups — local officials, unions, and activists — will continue throughout the week. But for now, protest leaders have called for another nationwide demonstration on Wednesday.


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